Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Ministry Affair

Okay, so I may or may not be a control freak.  Maybe...  just a little.

I had all of these ideas and plans about the way things should be in my life (as if it were, truly, MY life.)

For a while, I had things my way.  I was singing every week, or every other week on our praise team at church.  I was teaching women's Bible study.  I was leading the youth and helping out with children's and women's and every other ministry that I felt compelled to be a part of.  If there was an event at church, I was there.  If there was an opportunity for me to get involved, I was first on the sign up list.

Like I said, I'm a control freak.

I thought that I was becoming more "righteous" by helping out, but in reality, I was becoming more self-righteous.  I had everything I wanted.  In fact, because of my need for man's approval, and for control, I would pile on task, after task, after task just so that I could hear what an awesome job I was doing.  (Just being real here, folks- don't judge.)

So obviously I didn't know that's what I was doing.  My children, my marriage, and my relationship with God all took a back seat to my participation in ministry.  In fact, ministry became my idol, and essentially my love.  I turned every bit of my spare attention to ministry and to pursuing a career in ministry and, ironically, I left God completely out of the equation.

When my whole world seemed to crumble, I looked back and realized that I had been having an affair.  As a friend once put it "my affair was with ministry."  It was never with a person, but always with ministry- and honestly, I'm not sure which is worse.  If my affair had been with a person, I would have been able to break it off and hopefully reconcile with my husband and with God.  Instead, I was so blinded by "good deeds" and "serving" that I couldn't even begin to see where I was wrong.

I love that last part- verse 7 where he says "Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord." 

When I had things my way, when I was in control, I was wise in my own eyes and
I had no need for God.

I found every bit of my value in affirmation and attention, thus my "value" was based on performance and the ability to attain perfection.  That could be another reason why He said not to lean on our own understanding...  just a thought.

But after a while of doing things my way, God humbled me.

Through some very necessary changes at our church, I wasn't able to participate and perform at the level I once had.  So naturally, my self-worth, my value completely diminished.  Unknowingly, I had been living out entire parts of my life according to my own selfish ambition and vain conceit and when the opportunities simply were not available to me any longer, my wants, my desires, my hopes, my dreams, my plans all seemed to decrease while my need for God gradually increased.

Once I was "nothing" in my eyes, I was finally able to see God clearly.  It's funny how that works.  When I was desperate for love, for affirmation, and for attention, I had no where else to turn, but to God.  He began to show me that my pursuit of status had left my husband and my children feeling empty and unloved- and had left me completely drained and exhausted- not at all His plan for me.  So through a season of learning to pray and surrender to Him, my marriage was completely restored, and my children rejuvenated.  Our lives were completely changed, for His glory.

He showed me my need wasn't for status, or fulfillment in ministry, the perfect family, or the perfect job.  My need all along, was for Him.

So I get it when James says

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." James 1:2-4

You see, I needed God, but I didn't know I needed Him.  My heart longed for intimacy with Him, and unknowingly, I looked in all of the wrong places to try to find what I thought I was looking for.  During this time, I flirted with bitterness, but thankfully God revealed His desires for me to focus on my family and on Him rather than on what I thought I should be doing and He broke down the half-built walls of bitterness.  Once I was finally able to recognize my need for Him, my prayers became more real, my dependence on Him grew, and my independence shrank.  I started looking to Him to meet all of my needs and I noticed that I wasn't so "thirsty", so desperate for status, for ministry opportunities, for attention and the approval of man.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm thankful for these trials and for a forgiving family.  I'm thankful that God used the past couple of years to radically transform who I was for His glory, and I praise Him for the opportunity to have endured this and to have come out on the other side closer to my husband and children than ever before.

Not that I'd opt to go through all of this again...  because either it was more difficult than it had to be, or I'm just a really slow (stubborn) learner... or both.

Always learning, for His glory.

No longer I,

The Real Life Mom

Our Free Car, Our Christmas Miracle

So we got this car the other day...

Actually, let me re-phrase that:  we were GIVEN a car the other day- free of charge, as in "Here is the title.  It's all yours."

I know...  crazy, right?

It's beyond amazing.  It's fully loaded and better than anything either one of us could ever have hoped for or imagined.  It's gorgeous and wonderful and, almost too good to be true.

Only it's really true.  This really did happen.

Now- to answer your questions:

No.  We don't know who.  We don't know how.  We don't know why.

All we know is that we have been praying for quite some time for a vehicle- a vehicle without a car note.  I know- it seems crazy to pray for something like that, but we've been blessed in the past, and so I figured- why put God in a box?

Luke 1:37 says "NOTHING is impossible with God."

I wasn't sure what that would entail- whether it would be something we would save for over a long period of time,or if God would just show up and provide for this need.  Either way, I knew something needed to happen... something beyond our means, so we prayed.

The kids and I had made a prayer poster with a list of requests- super requests- things that only God could do.  I wanted them to see evidence of God at work.  As we prayed for these requests, some of them were answered- but definitely not in the ways I would have imagined.  God is a creative God, and I like to think of Him as being a romantic.  In all of His beautiful creativity, He reached down in to our circumstances and, for whatever reason, He chose to bless us in some pretty mind-blowing ways.

When it came to the request for the car, however, I began to get discouraged.  I started to try to "fix" the problem.  I began looking on Craigslist for a vehicle.  I thought perhaps I should just buy my husband a "clunker"- something to get him to and from work, and nothing more.  I looked everywhere, but no one seemed to be willing to negotiate down to a price we could manage- and the people who seemed most willing to make a deal were almost all scams.

So I allowed myself to buy in to Satan's lie that I should just give up.

But I had been so convinced that we were supposed to pray for a vehicle without a car note.  So why was I giving up?

Because waiting on God didn't fit in to my timeline.

And then something inside of me changed.  During a quiet time, in Romans 8, I read:

"If we look forward to something we don't have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently." 

After reading this, I was reminded that I needed to continue to wait on God, on His timing, and wait confidently- not giving up.  I tried.  I prayed.  I persevered.

But the enemy persisted.  He continued to try to convince us that this was never going to happen.  I wondered if perhaps I was "doing" something wrong, or if I needed to "do" something different.  My patience was running out, along with my confidence.

Then, last Friday, I received a text from a beloved friend who informed me that the Lord had graciously provided a vehicle for our family.


The vehicle didn't come from this friend- she was merely the messenger.

In spite of fears, doubts, frustrations, and pride, God showed up.

My mind tried to make sense of it all.  I tried to figure out how it had worked out- whether or not I had done something to earn this.

And I could think of nothing.

And then I could come up with no logical explanation for this beautiful, perfect, amazing gift... so I praised God.  During this season, He grew our faith, and taught us how to wait on Him.

People keep asking "what did you DO to earn that?!??!"  Truthfully?  We didn't "DO" anything.  We didn't earn this, or even deserve it.  To my knowledge, God doesn't work like that.  We didn't pray the right prayers, or impress the right people.  We just...  prayed and waited.

I have no idea why God chooses to answer some requests and not others.  I may never fully understand the magnificent scope of His awesome plan.  I mean, we prayed for some pretty incredible requests during this same time period, and they were not answered in the way we thought they should be...  if they were answered at all.  But we had to choose to trust in the goodness and the sovereignty of God.  We had to choose to trust that He moved in HIS time, according to HIS will and HIS purposes, for HIS glory.

Not mine.

And let me clarify- I am not bragging about this- not at all.  Several people have asked that we share the story behind the car, and so here it is.  We aren't favored over other people.  We aren't "more precious" to Him or "more loved" by Him.  We just continue to ask Him and wait with hopeful expectation for Him to respond either by providing or by leading us down a different path.

That's it.

No magic formula.  No special words or sign up sheets.

Just a family choosing to trust God rather than manipulating our circumstances to make us more "comfortable".

So, I'm sorry if it's not the super-exciting story you were hoping for.  For us, it was beyond exciting- it was an opportunity to experience God's love in a way we so desperately needed it.

It was our Christmas Miracle.

So we would like to take a moment to thank all of our friends who prayed for us during this season.   I don't know if you've been praying for something and it hasn't worked out the way you had hoped.  Maybe it's been years and you have yet to see any kind of answers.  I encourage you to keep on praying.  If I had things my way, I would have had this prayer answered a year ago. But God isn't a magic genie, so I know He isn't going to move in my timeline or the way I think He should.  I have a friend who prayed for the salvation of her husband for thirteen years before he finally made the decision to trust Christ.

Thirteen years.

God had a plan and it changed (and I would imagine is still changing) countless lives.  It changed my life, for sure!

He's God.  He's in control.  And our job is to trust him, no matter what.

End of story.

So anyway, thanks for reading and for celebrating with us!

To God be the glory, for the things He has done!


Thursday, December 6, 2012


Raise your hands if you are still eating leftovers... from Thanksgiving.  Anybody?  

I'm not a huge fan of leftovers.  I know I'm not alone in this- they just don't taste the same... except pie.  Pie is never not good, and I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of pie in my home post-Thanksgiving.  But I digress.  When it comes to leftovers there are some things that are merely "okay" the next day.  For the most part, however, leftovers are dominantly for the kids- and the jolly green giant I married.  

So, as I was re-heating some left overs for lunch, Jacob reminded me that he is also not a fan of leftovers when he whined:  "Maaaahhhhhmmmm...  it doesn't taste the same!"  

I'm not sure why this struck me, but it did.  I started thinking about how much of me I'm giving to the Lord, and how much I'm using on other less-important things.

I know- not where you thought I was going with that... 

So, of course, because this is a recurring theme in my life, as of late, I experience this lesson everywhere.  I read this today in my daily devotion (Jesus Calling) and experienced a similar lesson in a meeting I attended this morning:

And I was convicted.

Especially when she writes: "This practice enables them to give Me money, time, and work without yielding  up to Me what I desire most- their hearts...  the habit forming rules provide a false sense of security, lulling the soul into a comatose condition."  And then she goes on to say "What I search for in My children is an awakened soul that thrills to the joy of my presence!"  (The tears started there) and then I read "I created mankind to glorify Me and enjoy Me forever."

A thousand thoughts, I had.  But just one stood out significantly above the rest.  

It was this- how much of my time, money, efforts in ministry, efforts in life do I offer up to God to appease Him without every fully allowing myself to be open to truly loving and receiving love from Him?  I mean, seriously- when is the last time my soul felt awakened and thrilled at the joy of His presence?  These habits that I have trained myself to do, are they really for God, or are they to make me feel better?

The part of me that I yield trying to "spend time with God"- if I'm being truly honest, that's really just the leftovers.  

Read this:

Deuteronomy 6
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Looking back at my week filled with "to-do"s and busyness, I think, I certainly haven't been loving Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  I've been loving my church, my kids, my husband, and my home, but not God.  At least, not in this way.  

We are being urged in Deuteronomy to commit ourselves whole-heartedly to this, not just to give God our leftovers.

Psalm 16:11 says:
"You will show me the way of life,
    granting me the joy of your presence
    and the pleasures of living with you forever."

I have often wondered why I spent so much time trying to "do" more in ministry, trying to gain acceptance, approval, and validation from people when God spells it out multiple times in scripture:  We aren't here for our glory, for our ministry, or even for the church as a whole.  We aren't here for our families.  We are here for God-  To know Him and to love Him... and to be loved by Him.  All of that other stuff is just "stuff" unless it becomes the byproduct of loving Him and allowing Him to love others through you.

Maybe you aren't in this same place.  Maybe you "got it" a long time ago and have been enjoying the "joy of His presence" ever since.  For me, I know I've been in a season of change, wrestling with my plans versus God's plans.  Some days I'm uber-focused and really in an attitude of loving Him- not just what He can do.  Those days, I know for certain I experience the joys of His presence and my love for Him grows exponentially.  But old habits die hard.  

I think that because of my past and my personality, I am wired to "do" and to "go" and often lose sight of just being with Him.  I listen to the lie that I have to" do" or to be involved to earn His love, as we often experience with man and I forget that "He so loved the world..."  It was a free gift.  He already loved me- before I ever did anything good or bad.  And yet, I can still see that I'm either trying to please Him or find some sort of fulfillment in status or in other things- even honorable things like ministry, a happy husband, well-educated and well-behaved children, a healthy diet,  a clean home, etc...  I spend far too much time allowing my self to become far too distracted by life in this world and the need for man's approval to concern myself with things like the joy of His presence.  I'm loving "things" and people with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength.  So it's no wonder that when all is said and done, I'm completely and totally exhausted and all I have to offer Him is...  you guessed it- my leftovers.

But I don't want to live like that.  So for today, I'm thankful for this little reminder in the form of a whiny toddler- that helped me to regain my focus.  I am reminded that God doesn't want our leftovers any more than we want His.  He wants our soul-awakened to the thrills and joys of His presence!  So I say we throw out the leftovers and start fresh.

Here's to pie!  (I'm kidding...  sort of).  Here's also to another opportunity to learn more about this incredible opportunity that we all have to be wildly loved by the creator of the universe!

Still learning.  Still growing. 

Still long-winded... 

The Real Life Mom